Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Well, here's my little Los Angeles Angel.

As you can see, she's very excited about Halloween. Well, actually, in this particular photo, she's excited because she discovered how to speed-dial Daddy on Mommy's cell phone. Nonetheless, that was on Halloween, so it still counts.

But talk about excitement. Tonight I made my own Halloween discovery, a mystery that's been unsolved now for a couple of months ... but more on that later.

I had to work a little later than usual today, so I was afraid I would miss out on my little trick-or-treater. Luckily, C's nanny, the wonderful Stephanie (see photo on the right), took her around the neighborhood and eventually landed at her friends' house (home to twins H and D) a few blocks away.

When I drove over to meet them, it was a sea of children on the streets of Hancock Park. There were hundreds of them, literally, squeezed onto the sidewalks and front yards of the festively decorated homes. The homeowners really got into the spirit and were dressed up as witches and ghosts, relishing their closeups as they handed out candy to the constant stream of tots.

One home even had a video screen in its front window showing black-and-white Halloween-themed cartoons. Who needs Knott's Scary Farm, when you have your own family-friendly yet spooky neighborhood celebration?

It was a real rush.
The twins and their parents, Kathy and Matt, really got into the spirit, too. They dressed up as twins themselves, as their own little two-fers were decked out as soccer and baseball stars.
We stayed awhile at their house, as the stream of trick-or-treaters continued. In fact, Astrid, the twins' nanny, ran out of candy entirely. "What?!" asked Kathy incredulously. "We bought 1,000 pieces! Mille!" I wasn't surprised.
As it got later, Stephanie, C and I decided to head back. (Ian was at work and unfortunately missed out on all the fun.) But not before besos. Which, incidentally, should be a bumper sticker.
Ever since C arrived, I've been trying my best to get her to be comfortable with kisses. She's been anti-smooch for most her life, but lately, she's really gotten into it, the Hollywood air kiss being part of her repertoire. But tonight she gave the twins goodbye smooches, and I'm sad only in that my camera isn't as fast as I wish it were. Those were sweet moments, and here are their approximations.
As for the mystery, C's been saying "Dub-a-dee" for the past few months, and her parents have been completely perplexed as to its meaning. Well, tonight, as we were leaving, one of the twins, D (pictured left), said "Bye, Dub-a-dee." I asked Stephanie, "What did he say? C says that all the time."
"It's my name," she said.
Of course. Dub-a-dee = Stephanie.






Tuesday, October 28, 2008

No Trick, Only Treat

As Halloween approaches, I thought I'd share what C looked like last year in her first costume.

Actually, I should be specific and say her first Halloween costume. (Let's just say Ian has gotten creative with our little C, and I haven't yet mustered the courage to post those photos online.)

Thanks to my cousin Christy, C got to wear this adorable dragonfly outfit that her cousins had worn before her.

I have to say, it's pretty fun to dress up your baby. When I learned I was pregnant, and particularly when I learned I was having a girl, I got so thrilled at the thought of dressing my little one in anything I wanted -- without protest.

I know those days are numbered, so I have to relish photos like this, where she looks totally resigned (a slave to her mother's dress-up dictates), but still the most adorable thing I've ever seen.

Looking at it for too long, I start to notice a wry expression, a little gleam in her baby eye telling me she knows that I know those days are numbered, too.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Flower Power

This weekend marked the first time C took a trip down the aisle -- yes, that one. It was almost as I'd always pictured it. But instead of C walking arm-in-arm with her father, tearing up as she approached the altar, she sat on his shoulders and ... well actually, there were tears.


Flower girl duty can be tough, and sometimes daddies have to step in and toss the petals themselves.


That's just what happened on Saturday, when friends Luke and Ginka got married at a gorgeous home in the hills of Sherman Oaks. As you can see here, the view was fantastic, with the mountains encircling the Valley commanding the background.



The couple had generously asked C to be their flower girl, and Ian and I were elated but not without trepidation. She's still under 2 and often like a wind-up toy when placed on pavement. This kid hits the ground running, and people at the wedding were placing bets as to when she'd run straight into the pool.


Luckily, we didn't need a lifeguard that night.


What was sweet was seeing C atop her daddy's shoulders, as in the picture to the right, getting a little bit of stage fright in front of so many people and clinging to him for dear life. Perhaps even sweeter was seeing Ian take over flower girl duties, tossing petals hither and yon, without batting an eye.


What daddies will do for their little girls ...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Back in the Patch


Today marked our second annual trip to Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch in West Hollywood. It's becoming a family tradition and is marking time in such an incredible way. C looks so big now. I know every parent says this, but it really does feel as if we were just here five minutes ago ... only C wasn't able to walk and the word "No" hadn't yet entered her vocabulary.

But you can see the difference. (She also looked less like a Halloween kitten in '07. What a difference a year makes.)

If you've never been to Mr. Bones, it's really cute. It's located on Doheny between Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards in a large open, well, patch strewn with hay and pumpkins. Once you walk in, you grab a wagon or just let the kids roam free among the gourds, oversized rocking horses, bouncy pumpkin and other Bones attractions.

We started off with face painting. And luckily for everyone, the woman who was applying the paint was almost superhuman in her speed. I barely had C on my lap before the woman said she was done. I was sure she had just slapped some whiskers on C and called it a day, but the final product was adorable.

Next, we joined the wagon train. C loved riding around in the little metal carts, just like she did last year. She seemed more at ease with just taking a ride around the patch, unlike last year when she wanted to make a break for it at every opportunity.


To tell you the truth, I already can't wait for next year, and it isn't even Halloween yet. (I'll have to post pictures of C in her costume later this week. That will be a trip ... her first time trick-or-treating.)

But seeing last year's photos compared with this year's is so jarring ... in a good way. How much will she have grown by Halloween '09? What will she be doing? Saying? Wanting to wear? Will she be so over kitten face-painting? Who knows?

One thing that has remained constant, however, is her unfortunate disdain for the most adorable pumpkin hat of all. (See Grumpy pumpkin post.) I guess some things never change.

Friday, October 24, 2008

My Little Papoose


Last Sunday, Ian and I drove to Burbank to see a Syzygy Theatre Group production of William Saroyan's "Love's Old Sweet Song." Not only was it an insight into Central California life in the 1930s, it was also a glimpse into how "Okies" and Indians were perceived out here during the Dust Bowl era.
What struck me was a couple of things: writer William Saroyan (pictured below), although born in Fresno, was the son of Armenian immigrant parents, and his heritage was just below if not right on the surface of his works. (Incidentally, his writer son, Aram Saroyan, was one of my grad school fiction instructors at USC.)
But Saroyan pere's depiction of ignorant, slovenly, lazy and scheming Okies from Muskogee (see above photo, courtesy of Katherine Bedoian) seemed to belie someone who could identify with negative stereotypes of any kind.

Now, I wasn't around then, and my move to California has hardly brought on any kind of discrimination, so I don't know what migrant workers from Oklahoma were like or how they were perceived back then -- nor do I know why "Okies" were interchangeable with "Indians" -- but the depiction seemed so superficial and dismissive.

(As a disclaimer, I should say that the production itself was quite lovely and well done, particularly for a small 98-seat theater whose cast numbered 1/4 of the number of available chairs. Also, this might go without saying, but nothing on this blog is necessarily representative of the views of Variety.)

That's not to say that I think every migrant worker from Oklahoma in 1939 could be equated with My Fair Lady's Henry Higgins ('enry 'iggans), but I guess I was just hoping for a little more nuance. Despite being from Oklahoma and being 15/32 ( 1/32 shy of 1/2) Native American, I've never felt like the pejorative "Okie" or "Injun." Not to be overly dramatic (and Ian might label this as a grump post), but I felt somewhat betrayed by a person, a playwright no less, who should have been able to see shades of gray.

But I also thought about my daughter, who, although definitively blond, is just about 1/4 Indian -- Cherokee and Creek. Her mother and her mother's family is from Oklahoma, a place she's visited only three times in her almost two years.

I want her to be proud of her roots as much as I want her to be proud of being a native Californian, heck, a native Angeleno.

(On the right is a picture of my mom with C when she was about 3 weeks old. On the left is a picture (of a picture) of my grandma, my mother's mother, who was 100% full-blood Creek.)

There is one photo, the only one of its kind, in which C most resembles her Native American relatives. I call it my papoose photo. And it makes me proud. I only hope it will do the same for her.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Les Jolie Pits


I apologize in advance: You might need sunglasses to view the pictures I took today at the La Brea Tar Pits and L.A. County Museum of Art.

Turns out I had the camera on the wrong setting for the blindingly sunny day we had today. Usually, I'm much more diligent, but it was all I could do to actually take a picture given the flight tendencies of my hummingbird-like C.

What began as a sweet mother-daughter outing on a perfect October day turned into one in which my child tried to make a break for it at every opportunity, forcing me to chase her through not only the open grassy park area, but also through an actual security-guarded exhibit in the outdoor LACMA welcome area.

I'm not kidding when I tell you that a man in a wheelchair (a wheelchair, God bless him!) had a good laugh at me running full speed after the lightning-fast C. How badly did I want that wheelchair? Seriously. I think it had a motor, too. Oh, the irony.

"She's gonna be a track star," he said.

I couldn't even respond, I was so out of breath. I think I coughed out a "Yeah, don't know where she got those genes," before mustering all my energy to avoid actually passing out.

She even tried to go home with a father-son pairing when she saw that the little boy had his own bicycle. I know that children tend to think their parents are totally uncool, but I thought I had a good 10 years before I really had to worry about that. Ah well.

I did manage a somewhat tranquil, stationary shot of C in the grass. She was fascinated with the little daisies that sprouted up all over, even trying to eat one at one point.

What's great about the tar pits, the grounds of which seem to go on forever, is that they fold right into the plaza and park area behind LACMA. Children (and adults, who tend to be right behind those children) can run like the wind, and save for the occasional tar area, it's perfectly safe and freeing.

It's when we wandered over to the LACMA welcome area that I was sure I would get arrested. The space is an open, concrete square amid the actual museum buildings. There's a little kiosk for refreshments and a membership booth on either side of a sea of tables and chairs ... and the "Family Car," which is part of the Los Angelenos exhibit from Cheech Marin's personal collection. (The photo, right, is courtesy of C-Monster.net.)

I'm not exaggerating when I say that there was an actual velvet rope cordoning off this car. Of course, C limboed right underneath it just as my grasp on her was slightly loosened. Fearing that she would run out onto Wilshire Boulevard (which is a ways from this car, but still), I scooted under the ropes myself to chase after her.
After apologizing to not one but two security guards, I nabbed my little runaway and wondered if today would be the day I succumbed to spanking. (I didn't, but I did yell, I'm sure adding a tense element to the otherwise tranquil museum-going experience.)

Luckily, she settled down and we walked over to the museum booth to get her a free NexGen membership, good for the next 16 years, that allows her and an accompanying adult to visit LACMA anytime for free. Baby's first museum membership. Maybe it was all worth it, after all.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Grumpy pumpkin

In honor of the upcoming holiday, I thought I'd revisit my little grumpy pumpkin from a year ago. C was about 10 months old last Halloween, right at the stage of hat hatred. This was a major disappointment for her parents, because her great-aunt Diane and great-uncle Doug had sent her the most adorable pumpkin hat that stayed on for ... oh, about as long as it took to capture this on film. This year, however, has magically become the stage of hat obsession. (See crazy grandmother photo from our Las Vegas trip.) Let's hope there's a happy medium.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Life Aquatic

Whoever said that slimy, prickly or even fuzzy sealife had to be kept at arm's length -- and I think that person was me -- definitely has not been to an aquarium in a while.

Today, Ian, C and I headed down to San Pedro to visit my friend Sara from work who has her own shop on eBay called Penguintastic. She specializes in vintage designer clothing, and oh my, did I clean up.

She needed a model for some gorgeous vintage items she had found (hello, Halston, St. John and Ferragamo!), and luckily I was the right size. I say lucky, because some of the clothes I was supposed to model, I ended up buying. (Hmm, smart thinking, Sara.) She gave me an amazing deal on the pristine St. John sleeveless dress that she was going to put on her site. Not to mention the Ferragamo shoes! For a mom who frequents Old Navy more often than she hits Nordstrom, this was a day made in designer heaven.

After I had tried on the Halston suit for Sara, Ian, C and I decided to check out San Pedro, which is about a half-hour or 45 minutes south of L.A., depending on traffic (and a pitstop for donuts; yes, again). We saw a sign for the beach and the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, and we were sold.

First, we found an empty picnic table near a hotdog stand and decided to have lunch. Little did we know that surrounding seagulls had the same plan. In fact, literally two seconds after I put my hotdog on the table, during which time I was trying to ready food for my own child, some jerky seagull swooped down and swallowed my hotdog whole! Without the bun, of course.

Then an entire flock of seagulls (not the band, although that would've been funny) flew in, hoping for their own taste of hotdog goodness. The flapping wings and cackles of insanity immediately made me think of "The Birds," and I rushed to C's side, just in case they were thinking of doing anything untoward. I could always buy another hotdog, but my child's eyes were not something to take lightly. Ian watched from the sidelines and just shook his head.
After we ate lunch and watched C run through the sand and around palm trees, we hit the nearby aquarium.

It was adorable. The facility is made up of several buildings, some with active research going on, housing baby octupuses (octopi?) and baby sharks, and some with fascinating exhibits. There's even a Tidepool touch tank (see top photo) that C also mistook for a diving tank. There were several times when I had to tell her not to climb over the little rock wall, a la her erstwhile crib, to make friends with the starfish.

But that was not before hitting the "stick your head in a fish face" photo op. We could've stayed here for hours, to tell you the truth. C really enjoyed it, too. But not as much as Ian, clearly, in the mouth of the Great White Shark.

It was a gorgeous day -- sunny, a bit brisk -- and San Pedro was a nice and unexpected detour in our regular routine. I got to wallow in vintage designer goodness, C got up close and personal with some tidepool dwellers (you better believe I washed her hands after that one), and Ian got to pretend he was being eating by a deadly shark.

Talk about Penguintastic! OK, Ferragamo-tastic, too.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Crib Notes

So it wasn't the first day of kindergarten, but it was still emotional nonetheless.
Yes, this morning I converted C's crib into a daybed. And I use the word "I" with both accuracy and pride. Ian had warned me not to attempt such a feat. That I was not a daybed-converting pro.

Apparently he doesn't remember just how many Ikea items I've assembled over the years. In fact, I almost feel like Bob Vila. Almost.

Anyway, it was a little jarring seeing C crawl into and back out of the cri -- er -- daybed with such ease, as if she'd been doing it all her life. Ian and I both got lumps in our throats as we took in one more milestone. She was ready to move on from crib life, as she'd expressed lately by leaping to her escape every chance she got.

Of course I recalled her infant days, when I borrowed a bassinet from my friend Paula at work. C was so tiny. It's tough to remember that she was ever that small. In the bassinet picture (right), she wasn't even two months old. She couldn't even turn over, much less fling herself up and over the prison she considered to be her crib.

I remember she became too big for the bassinet when she started sleeping in it sideways, her head and feet poking horizontally against the fabric. The image looked just like one of those cartoon characters that swallow a submarine sandwich -- C, of course, being the sandwich.
She still seemed tiny when we first placed her in the crib. The extra space was overwhelming. She looked so exposed. At least with the bassinet she was nestled in tight, womb-like, even though she did look as if she'd been swallowed whole by a stuffed animal from Toys R Us.
Now she's big enough to sleep in her first bed. Bed. Wow, just writing it makes me choke up.
And if I'm mushing out on memories and milestones now, I can't even imagine what kindergarten will be like.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Holey Donuts





If you know me at all, you know that I like (read: obsess over) donuts. Ever since I was a munchkin myself, I've loved them. Where I grew up, in Oklahoma City, there was, of course, Dunkin' Donuts. But there was also local landmark Brown's Bakery, whose baked goods always tasted a little more homemade. Donuts from a chain or a standalone bakery, doesn't matter to me. When it comes to glazed, devil's food or butterscotch drizzle, I'm pretty easy to please.

So when I saw that my friend Rachel had written a MetroMix article on that very subject, I thought it would be a great opportunity to introduce C to the various donuts around L.A.

Our first stop: Bob's Coffee & Doughnuts at the Farmers Market. Bob's is very old-school, as is most of the Farmers Market shops. It really feels as if you're stepping into a time warp back to the '60s, or earlier.

You probably can't tell from the picture (right), but I even wore my "Donuts, it's best for dinner" T-shirt for the occassion. I'm sure if this excursion in and of itself doesn't embarrass C, I'm betting the T-shirt will do the trick.

I also told Ian I was determined to eat a donut at each shop, and I began here with a buttermilk cake. Ian had the sugar raised and C had rainbow sprinkled donut hole. All that for $2.10.

Bob's is also known for their cute kids specialties, such as the kitties (left) and dinosaurs.

After our initial success, we headed down La Cienega toward LAX to our next stop: Randy's Donuts. You'll notice the giant donut in the photo above. This is one prominent Los Angeles landmark. There's a drive-thru as well as a window where you can walk right up. Strangely enough, the buttermilk cake had practically filled me up (I'd also eaten a bowl of cereal that morning), and I was a little nervous about the second one. So Ian ordered a glazed, which we all shared. Along with coffee and OJ, that came to about $3.50. Somehow, I found the strength to continue our marathon.

Next, we headed up to Frittelli's in Beverly Hills. My friend Pat from work, who has a great food blog called EatingLA, recommended the gourmet donut shop. I had never been here before but was eager to try it out.

This is a chic little boutique, but also very down-to-earth, coffee and donut shop on Canon, a couple blocks from Rodeo Drive. Their offerings are varied, but we grabbed the strawberry glaze because the pink frosting spoke to C. I also grabbed a strawberry Italian soda. These two items: $4.75.


Although we didn't get a fun exterior shot of Frittelli's, we did notice something funny as we parked in a primo spot right outside. Apparently, you can use MasterCard or Visa now to feed your meter. As bizarre as that sounds (and maybe this makes me an old fogey for even suggesting its strangeness), I've been caught without enough change for the meter and wished that they'd just charge my card ... you know, 75 cents plus interest.
Our final stop was in La Puente, which is about a half-hour east of Los Angeles. At this point, we were all in a little donut daze. I was also nervous that C might go into sugar shock. Her stamina was thrilling, but she doesn't usually eat donuts on a regular basis. I was afraid I might turn her off of them completely.
So once we hit traffic on the 10-E toward La Puente, I was wondering if going to the literal drive-thru Donut Hole would be worth it. Ian told me to stop and turn around, that it was just too much to ask. But I persevered. And I'm glad I did. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I'd actually drive through a giant faux donut to get my fourth fried circle of goodness of the day.
Truthfully, I thought I was going to die. There is a limit to how many of those things one person (even a diehard like myself) should consume in one morning.
Nevertheless, we ordered another glazed and a Coke. This was $1.90. We came out the other side, but stuffed, sluggish and ready for a nap. I felt like poor Morgan Spurlock in Super Size Me.
Once we got back home, I vowed a severe detox regimen for the week. No more donuts for a while. I never thought I'd say this, but I just can't take any more for the forseeable future. I actually thought, halfway through our adventure, that I would do the same thing next weekend, only with coffee. No. Double no. Triple grande nonfat no.
But it was great to take Ian and C around the city to various donut digs. And it wasn't pricey. All in all, we spent just over $12, plus whatever change we put in the magic credit meter. Four donuts plus drinks: $12. OD-ing (over-donuting, that is) and gaining weight while we did it: priceless.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Abandonment Issues


Earlier this evening, I read a New York Times article that I thought had to be either a joke or the premise to a goofy Ben Stiller movie. Its headline: Older Children Abandoned Under Law for Babies.

It's actually quite true and quite sad. Apparently in Nebraska, a new Safe Haven law -- which allows mothers to leave their newborns at certain facilities such as hospitals without the fear of prosecution -- has caregivers thinking they have the green light to abandon their teenagers (!).

Forget newborns, it's the teens that are too hard to handle.

People are now outraged, saying this is a blatant misuse of the law. I'm on board with that, but reading about these caregivers' troubles really gave me pause. (The poor father of 10 whose wife had died in childbirth felt overwhelmed with it all and decided to keep only his oldest, leaving the other nine at an Omaha hospital.)

Two days ago, C learned how to crawl out of her crib. Her M.O. is to hook one foot over the top edge, pull herself up and over, and shimmy down the other side. (I had to see it to believe it.) I had put her down for a nap, walked into the bathroom, and two minutes later she opened the door. I was stunned. And she was so proud. Then I put her back in the crib and watched as she performed her magic once again. She's an old pro now. It's all over. Then, this morning, she tried to crawl out of the window.

The point is, I (like most parents, I'm sure) identify with feeling overwhelmed sometimes. And while walking away seems unthinkable, I also can't imagine the road that leads you there. What someone said in the Times story is that there is help out there; you just have to find it.

So I found this site Weary Parent. It specifically discusses parenting teens and tweens. I have a decade, give or take, before I get there, but it's nice to know that there are places to go online (in addition to family and friends) when you might feel as if you'd like to hook one foot over the top edge, pull yourself up and over, shimmy down the other side and make a break for it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Caught on Tape!

video

Honestly, the picture couldn't do it justice. It was a valiant effort and went beyond the call of duty, but when it comes to Hulking Out, photographs are a mere cartoon sidekick to the superhero that is video.

Yes, we have an official Hulking Out moment caught on tape (well, digital). The first of its kind. I have to say, I never thought the day would come when C would hulk out on call. But that's my girl, making Mommy proud with fist-balling and mild shaking!

This was taken in Las Vegas at the sushi restaurant Todai. (I never found out if it was pronounced: a) I'd like some sushi "Todai," not tomorrow; or b) This sushi is "Todai" for.) C was more than happy to perform for the camera -- something that both pleases and terrifies me.

On the one hand, this is great to have on camera. On the other hand, with my new fear that raising her in Hollywood will somehow make her want to become an actress, I think to myself, "Good God, please let her only want to hulk out in private."

After a while I come to my senses: Maybe she can parlay this obvious gift into something that can pay for college. Priorities, Laura, priorities.

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